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Garth Brooks, Just Being Himself, Stars at ACM Fundraising Gala

The Academy of Country Music’s first Lifting Lives Gala, held Friday night at the Omni Dallas Hotel, was all about Garth Brooks, the monster-selling country singer/songwriter who once “retired” from the business to be a stay-at-home dad. The Oklahoma native returned to recording and touring worldwide in 2014, many years after scoring big hits with hard-country classics like “Friends in Low Places,” “Beaches of Cheyenne,” and “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old).” In recognition of his return he’s a nominee for Entertainer of the Year at Sunday’s 50th anniversary ACM Awards at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

The Omni bash, which benefited Brooks’ Teammates for Kids Foundation and so-called Child Life Zones at two local hospitals, at times seemed more like a tribute to Brooks, who’s rejoined the music game at a time when the generic “bro-country” sound dominates mainstream country radio. In contrast to those mindless, pop/electronic paeans to beer, tailgates, and girls in cut-off jeans, Brooks’ songs sound downright epic, dealing with time-honored country themes like rodeo and don’t-give-a-s*** mavericks with the cojones to confront an ex at a pretentious black-tie soiree.

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The Dallas Zoo’s Harrison Edell Talks Giraffe Birth and Kilts on D Magazine Podcast

We were all a little disappointed that Harrison Edell, the senior director of living collections at the Dallas Zoo, didn’t show up at the Old Monk yesterday with a lemur on his back, or a falcon on his arm, or a tarantula atop his head, or toting some manor of fauna. Instead he was merely a mightily entertaining interview subject on the latest EarBurner podcast.

A couple of corrections/clarifications for this week’s show, which also features impressions of Dallas City Council members Vonciel Hill Jones, Sheffie Kadane, and Tennell Atkins:

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Reaction to Art Ball Video is Over-the-Top and Ridiculous

Can you say s-t-r-e-t-c-h? Yesterday, our colleague Peter posted Saturday night’s Art Ball video, a knock-off spoof of the song “Uptown Funk” starring the likes of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, DMA director Maxwell Anderson, Deedie Rose, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, and other art-crowd bigwigs. Peter also recalled a previous (admittedly tone-deaf) ball video spoofing “Downton Abbey.” Then he proceeded to rip Rawlings, throw a bouquet to mayoral contender Marcus Ronquillo, and somehow relate it all to the Trinity River tollroad debate. That opened the floodgates for commenters (here and elsewhere), who variously accused the video cast of elitism, racism, ripping off taxpayers, and making a “mockery” of … something or other.

Give me a break. Please. This blowback is so over-the-top and ridiculous, it’s embarrassing. First off, the “Funk” takeoff was a sponsor video, intended to thank the sponsors of Saturday’s fundraiser in a light-hearted and creative manner. (The sponsors are those who help pay for the event.) Second, the video was actually entertaining, imagined and edited with a deft touch. Third, the people in the video were making fun of themselves as much as anything (Rawlings in hair curlers? The usually buttoned-down Anderson looking like Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage”?) Last, the racism charge is offensive. Leaving aside that the video cast was not all-white, the fact is that it’s people with money—regardless of the color of their skin—who bankroll institutions like the DMA, which has been able to offer free admission and free membership to all comers precisely because of events like Saturday night’s. Welcome to the real world, people.

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In Dallas, Comedian Dana Carvey Recalls Barbara Bush Calling H. Ross Perot and Bill Clinton Clowns

Actor and stand-up comedian Dana Carvey took a few shots at Dallas and Dallasites while headlining a charity event at the Meyerson Symphony Center Thursday. Chief among the targets was businessman/former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, whom Carvey often lampooned when he was a regular on TV’s Saturday Night Live.

Doing a dead-on impression of the dimunitive billionaire, Carvey said Perot showed real promise as a candidate with his, “We’re gonna study it … we’ll get some charts” schtick, before going off the deep end with nonsensical statements like this: “You can’t put a porcupine in a bar and light it on fire and expect it to make licorice!”

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Shopping for Dallas Investors for a Texas-Set Western

With its fast-growing population of wealthy people, Dallas has been a magnet for filmmakers looking for investment cash for awhile. Movies financed by North Texans include the 2008 Ben Stein documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Rob Allyn’s “Java Heat” starring Mickey Rourke, and several from Gary Cogill’s (now-shuttered) Lascaux Films, a company that was basically bankrolled by local doctors.

The latest moviemaker to come knocking seeking Dallas dough is Chris Ekstein, an award-winning cinematographer from Venice, Calif., who’s shopping a Western project set in Texas called “The Last Duane.” Inspired by the writings of author Zane (“Riders of the Purple Sage”) Grey, the flick’s a straight-up oater about a gunfighter and outlaw who eventually sees the light and “gives himself over to service in the Texas Rangers.”

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Denton Teacher Motivates Students With the ‘STAAR Test Funk’

Kelli Hauser, a sixth-grade reading teacher at McMath Middle School in Denton, produced this shot-for-shot video parody of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” ostensibly to motivate students to get excited about the STAAR standardized testing this week. Hauser has previously produced parodies of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” called “STAAR Force” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” called “TAKS Face,” so I suspect she may be doing it to live out a bit of her own American Idol-esque dreams too. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — she’s far from the only teacher to do so.

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How You Can Save Western Civilization by Reading True Grit

In April, we’re asking everyone to read Charles Portis’ True Grit as part of D Academy’s literacy nonprofit Big D Reads. D Academy fellows raised enough money to purchase 17,000 copies of the book and will be handing them out at more than 60 events during the month of April.

The fellows have spent the last few months talking about “grit.” One alumnus of the group, David Hopkins, recently shared his own thoughts on the word’s meaning:

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

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R.I.P., The Broadcast

It began in February 2013, with Tim’s voiceover announcing “This is D TV” — or something like that. Tim liked the first show.

It ended last week with the final original episode of The Broadcast on local station KTXD. You’ll remember the progam was originally titled D: The Broadcast, but our company jumped ship in August 2013. After which time the name was truncated, and the hosts rotated.

Uncle Barky discusses some of the details of this failed experiment in local programming:

Former London Broadcasting chief operations officer Phil Hurley, who birthed both The Broadcast and The Texas Daily while running KTXD, said Monday that he hoped the station’s laid-off employees “quickly find another opportunity. They’re good people that worked hard.”

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The New Republic on What Makes Dallas World Aquarium Unique

Daryl Richardson is a high-end caterer turned zookeeper who opened Dallas World Aquarium in downtown’s West End in 1992. The New Republic‘s newly published deep dive on him and his menagerie shows how he eschews the normal model for zoos are run (not a nonprofit, unafraid to acquire any desirable animal from the wild), which has resulted in an international attraction for zoo aficionados.

But he also comes off as a hell of a hard man to work for, and some of his questionable practices have angered biologists and conservations. The article centers on the aftermath of Richardson’s failed 2013 attempt to get some rare sloths from Panama, an action that caused an international uproar:

Some zoo officials I spoke with were embarrassed by Richardson’s misadventure, but it does not seem to have caused much damage to his professional standing. In an image-sensitive industry, a rogue who collects and breeds exotic speciesanimals that can then be traded with more cautious zoos, at scant risk to their own budgets and reputationsplays a useful role. Last year, the AZA said it was looking into the pygmy-sloth controversy, but it never released any findings. It also renewed the Dallas World Aquarium’s accreditation last March, finding that Richardson’s zoo upheld the “practices and philosophies that are commonly accepted as the norm by the profession.”

“My story is really not that different than any other zoos that have their failures and their successes,” Richardson told me. “It’s just I happen to be the independent owner of this facility and I’ve been here for the duration, from day one to day now.”

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We Are Now Fully Living In An Idiocracy: Sex Box

Jarric Tucker and Taylor Bell will celebrate their second wedding anniversary this month. Like many couples, those first two years have had their trying moments. For one thing, Taylor struggled with body issues after she gave birth to their son. They’d argue sometimes, and Jarric would go sleep on the couch rather than talk it out. It happens. So the Dallas couple went on a new TV show to talk about those issues with a panel of three therapists and then, after that, they went into a soundproof cube and had sex. And then, immediately after that, they came back out and talked about what happened.

The show is straightforwardly titled Sex Box, and its guiding principle is that couples are at their most honest immediately following sex. Tucker and Bell say it helped them. Their episode will air Friday 9 p.m. on We TV. So that’s great. I wouldn’t have done it, but whatever. I wouldn’t do a lot of things, and I’m also divorced.

But if you were wondering if it would take 500 years to get to Idiocracy‘s predictions, the answer is: it might not take 50.

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Steve Martin Cast in Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Deadline is reporting that one of my personal heroes — seriously, if you’ve not read his memoir, Born Standing Up, you’re missing out — actor/comedian/banjo player/novelist Steve Martin has been cast in director Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Dallas author Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (one of the greatest novels of the 21st century.)

Unknown Joe Alwyn has already been cast as Iraq War soldier Billy Lynn. Thinking over the potential suitable parts for him in the book, Martin has got to be playing the owner of the Dallas Cowboys — the fictionalized Jerry Jones — right?  I suppose he could be the agent who’s trying to sell Lynn’s Army squad’s story to Hollywood, but I like that first possibility way more.

Deadline also says Garrett Hedlund is also in line for a role. Shooting is to begin in April. In Atlanta, Since Texas Stadium, where 90 percent or more of the story takes place, doesn’t exist here anymore, I guess that’s understandable. Even if Billy Lynn is maybe the best Dallas novel ever.

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